In 1973, after leading UCLA to two national championships and being named player of the year, Bill Walton built up the nerve to take a stand against legendary coach John Wooden and walked into the first practice of his senior year with long hair and a beard that was reflective of his hippie lifestyle.
Wooden’s rules were clear for players representing his program and their university: No hair longer than two inches and no facial hair. Walton protested on the grounds that it infringed upon his personal rights. After all, it was his face and his head. He could do with them whatever he wanted.
In fact, Wooden agreed.
“You’re correct, Bill. I don’t have that right,” Wooden told him. “I just have the right to determine who is going to play, and we’re going to miss you. In about 15 minutes, we’re not going to have you unless you get that taken care of.” Walton tried stating his case.
“Now you have 14 minutes,” Wooden said.
Walton jumped on his bicycle, raced to a nearby barber shop, had his hair cut, shaved his beard and raced back to Pauley Pavilion for practice.
Keep that in mind when you consider Grambling football players who boycotted a game over the weekend amid complaints about poor facilities, long bus rides and a food shortage on the road. The firing of Coach Doug Williams, and replacing him with unpopular George Ragsdale, added to their displeasure.
Nobody should bemoan the players for protesting. Our country was built on the strength of people who stood up for what was right, especially when it wasn’t popular. If anything, the players should be complimented, not condemned, for adhering to their beliefs and speaking out against the university.
In fact, their complaints appear valid.
Grambling failed to address problems in its weight room, where a shoddy floor has created an unsafe environment. Other schools have better facilities, cozier bus rides, better meals and better teams. The lack of support likely has contributed to its 0-7 record and 1-17 mark since winning the SWAC championship in 2011.
The players returned this week after their one-game boycott, but they hardly proved their argument. If anything, it’s the other way around. There’s a better chance that the message they intended to send stopped at the front steps of the university and made a U-turn toward the locker room.
Grambling doesn’t make money from football, a financial loser for more than 75 percent of 125 teams with Division I programs. Big-time sports at big-time schools generate money, such as Duke basketball or Alabama football. For the most part, athletes who believe they’re helping the schools are sadly mistaken. It’s the other way around.
And that includes Grambling football.
Ultimately, the protest will not result in players making a point. It was about them getting the point. They can boycott all they want. They can sit out the entire season. That’s within their rights. However, they made a commitment to play football. In exchange, Grambling gave them a free education.
With the skyrocketing costs of college for kids who don’t play sports, it’s a pretty good deal. But it also comes with a personal price. When a player accepts a scholarship, he accepts school regulations and standards. Grambling players merely reaffirmed that they don’t make the rules. They follow them.
They don’t like it? There’s the door. Ask Bill Walton.
Kelly bucks own logic
Eagles coach Chip Kelly is known for relying heavily on analytics, so it was surprising to see him throw probability and statistics out the window on a fourth-and-1 play late in the first half Sunday against Dallas.
Philadelphia had the ball on the Cowboys’ 42 with 14 seconds left in the second quarter and Dallas holding a 3-0 lead. The percentages, if not Kelly’s history, pointed toward them running a quick passing play and calling timeout, setting up a manageable field-goal attempt for Alex Henery.
Henery instead missed a 60-yard attempt that allowed Dallas to run two plays, including a Hail Mary, at the end of the half. Why not run a short pass play and use the timeout? Kelly appeared to have little confidence in backup quarterback Nick Foles, the heir apparent to Michael Vick, to complete a pass.
Foles completed 11 of 22 for 80 yards in the first half. He threw seven straight incompletions in the second half before getting injured. Kelly must be having second thoughts about whether Foles will be his starting quarterback any time soon.
“With a quarterback, it’s like a tea bag,” Kelly said. “You don’t know what you’re going to have until you put it in hot water.”
Don Mattingly could have a difficult time returning to the Dodgers after they essentially called his bluff Tuesday and fired bench coach Trey Hillman. The move came less than 24 hours after Mattingly made it clear he wanted his staff to remain intact.
The offseason already is shaping into a power struggle between Mattingly and the Dodgers. He has one year and $1.4 million on his contract. If the Dodgers aren’t willing to give him a contract extension, he suggested they send him on his way. The latter appears more likely given the events in recent days.
Dodgers trainer Sue Falsone, an Amherst native and Daemen College grad, announced her resignation earlier this week. She was hired by the Dodgers two years ago, and was the first woman trainer in Major League Baseball.
She said via Twitter that she’s pursuing other opportunities. She runs a training facility in Arizona.
Adams leaves his mark
How much did Bud Adams, who died Monday at age 90, and other AFL owners benefit from their $25,000 investment in 1959? Try more than 5,000 percent, and that’s if you account for inflation.
A $25,000 investment in 1959 equates to about $200,000 in today’s dollars when calculating inflation. The Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans were valued at $1.05 billion, according to Forbes’ estimates in August.
The Tennesseean reported Tuesday that Adams set up plans to pass the team to the families of his three children.
Apparently, he used part of his wealth to set up an account that would cover estate taxes that come with leaving the franchise for his family.
Adams also made sure the Titans would remain in Nashville until the 2028 season, which is when their lease expires.
The long-term lease was viewed as payback from Adams for giving him a new stadium and sweetheart deal when he relocated from Houston in 1996.
1 – Earned runs allowed in 21 postseason innings pitched by Michael Wacha, who was selected 19th overall by the Cardinals with a compensatory pick they received after losing free agent Albert Pujols to the Angels.
53.2 – Rushing attempts per game in the NFL this season, the fewest in NFL history.
16 – Runs batted in for Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino in six postseason at-bats with the bases loaded, including two grand slams.
• Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith has more goals (one) this season than Sabres forwards Steve Ott, Mikhail Grigorenko, Cody McCormick, Patrick Kaleta and John Scott. Smith became the 11th goalie credited for a goal. Martin Brodeur has two in the regular season, one more than Scott has in 186 NHL games, and another in the playoffs.
• Knicks fans who were worried about Carmelo Anthony leaving after this season need to relax. Anthony has about 34 million reasons to stay in New York, one for every dollar he can make by signing a maximum contract with the Knicks over any other team. Melo is already backing off comments that he would test the open market.
• Just when you think you’ve heard it all, a parent of a Western Hills High (Texas) football player filed a complaint against Aledo High coach Tim Buchanan after Aledo beat Western Hills, 91-0, last week. The trumped up charge: bullying. The parent best take a number. Aledo has beaten its opponents by 77 points per game this season.